Stocks rally, dollar dips further on easing rate expectations

Investors are now betting the Fed will hike rates 25 basis points in May

By AFP

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A person walks past in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm on Friday in Tokyo. Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher on Friday after US inflation eased in March and China reported unexpectedly strong exports. - AP
A person walks past in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm on Friday in Tokyo. Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher on Friday after US inflation eased in March and China reported unexpectedly strong exports. - AP

Published: Fri 14 Apr 2023, 12:27 PM

Equity markets rallied and the dollar dipped further Friday after fresh data showing continued slowing of inflation fanned hopes the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its long-running campaign of interest rate hikes.

The surprise on-month drop in producer prices in March -- and the biggest since April 2020 -- came a day after the consumer price index dropped more than expected, suggesting the central bank's tightening campaign was finally paying off.

A higher-than-forecast reading on jobless claims added to the positive mood, which helped send Wall Street's three main indexes rallying, including a two percent advance for the Nasdaq.

Investors are now betting the Fed will hike rates 25 basis points at its May gathering but possibly hold after that, with some still clinging to hopes it will even cut by the end of the year.

In a sign of cooling inflation elsewhere, Singapore's central bank stood pat on rates, having hiked five times in a row. The move follows similar decisions in Australia, India, Canada and South Korea.

This week's data has reassured investors that inflation is coming down and that the economy could be heading for a soft landing, even though minutes from the Fed's March policy meeting revealed some officials see a mild recession by the year's end.

"Coming fast on the heels of yesterday's better-than-expected (consumer prices) reading, today's (producer price index) print, plus the in-line jobless claims report, reinforces the view that the labour market continues to rebalance and that the post-pandemic inflation scare is ending," said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

"And as we move into the seventh-inning stretch, where arguably much could happen between now and the final pitch, the combination of progress on inflation and the softer labour market has been encouraging.

"It reinforces the view that the Fed may be in the 9th inning of the hiking cycle, which markets seem to be endorsing today as yields on 10-year Treasuries declined."

Paris dashed out of the blocks at the open and hit a record high of 7,500 points, while London and Frankfurt also rose.

Asian equities rose on Friday, with Tokyo leading the way followed by Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta.

"Inflation is not surprising to the upside," said Que Nguyen of Research Affiliates.

"At the same time, the job market seems stable. And so what we're getting today is sort of an optimistic outlook that we're going to have almost like a Goldilocks situation where inflation's going to slow, but the economy is not crashing."

Focus now turns to the release of US retail sales Friday while corporate earnings season kicks off in earnest, with results from banking titans including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.

Traders are keenly awaiting their outlook statements in light of the upheaval in the banking sector last month that saw three US lenders go under and Credit Suisse bought by rival UBS.

With Thursday's data lowering expectations for where rates will top out, the dollar has come under pressure, hitting a one-year low against the euro. And it continued to struggle Friday, falling further versus the single currency, while the pound was at its best level since June.

"Given the strength of dollar selling this week, it would take a surprisingly strong rise in consumer sentiment, retail sales and inflation expectations to shake the dollar bears off before the weekend," said Matt Simpson at City Index.

Oil prices rose in Asian business, extending a rally sparked by major producers' decision this month to slash output by more than a million barrels a day.

The OPEC+ group said on Thursday the move had put world markets on course to be in deficit, which will widen as the year goes on, with China's reopening adding extra pressure.


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